Dualed is the type of book that created an ambivalence in me; on the one hand, there are quite a few items in there that bucks YA dystopian trends (she’s an assassin, for example, and by definition, NOT a unique snowflake). But on the other hand, yet again we have a ‘too good to be real/never gets upset’ and ‘ignore best advice and do your own thing’ syndromes. What keeps this at a firm 3 stars for me is that a lot of the middle feels like filler to flesh out a basic premise.
Story: West lives in a post apocalyptic society where each person is created with an exact duplicate. The society prides itself on defense preparedness and a competition in the teen years means that every ‘partial’ will eventually have to kill their duplicate in order to become complete and join society. West has lost most of her family to partial kills or from collateral damage of someone else’s kill. Alone, she chooses to become a Striker, an assassin for hire to take out other people’s duplicates. She hopes this training will prepare her to face her own trial/assignment; which comes sooner than she would have hoped.
Honestly, after the premise of the story is revealed, I expected a long drawn cat and mouse where our main character would have to outwit her opponent. Instead, West spends most of the book avoiding having to meet up with her duplicate and being saved by her love interest, Chord. This was problematic since the problem of her duplicate was far more interesting than her becoming a Striker/assassin. Indeed, the author failed to show any ‘training’ she received as a result of being a Striker (she was thrown out into assignment immediately) and perhaps the only thing she learned was that hesitation is deadly. But really, the experience of killing a ‘hit’ was different than killing your duplicate/alt since you can blend as a Striker but everyone knows when you are in the middle of your assignment to kill your alt.
I had expected we would get a lot of morally-hesitant kills (e.g., killing bad people or people who ‘deserved’ it) and was pleasantly surprised the author refused to take the easy route. But with West’s own alt, I felt it would have been better to make her a more sympathetic (or even better) character than alt. That would have put a lot more ambiguity and better message about the dystopian society. Instead, if West kills her alt, she can say she was the worthy one – and the dystopian society’s policies become sound and sanctioned.
In the end, the conflicting messages (dystopian killing society is right), daring plot devices (she kills innocents!), and lack of logic (if you do something to get training in weapons/killing, then GET the training already) make this a solid 3 stars.
Note: I listened to the Audible version of this story and the narrator did an excellent job.